Blackstone’s New Bride

BLACKSTONE AND BRIDE HERE ON HONEYMOON

 

 

 

From The Colon Express, November 23, 1950: “Mr. and Mrs. Harry Blackstone have been making the Blackstone home here their headquarters while visiting neighboring cities and acquainting Mrs. Blackstone with Michigan. They had planned to spend several weeks here, but this change of weather to real signs of winter may shorten their stay.

The world-famous magician and Mrs. Elizabeth Ross of Tucumeari, new Mexico, were married on election day, the account of their marriage appearing in these columns two weeks ago. Harry and his bride have found time to linger a bit with “home town” folks who have found Mrs. Blackstone a very pleasant lady.

 

While visiting Battle Creek recently, the Blackstones were dining at the Post Tavern, where the above picture was taken by the Enquirer-News staff photographer. Harry is demonstrating to his bride how an ordinary table napkin can be transformed into a rabbit. Thanks to the Enquirer-News for the use of the picture.

The Enquirer-News story says Mrs. Blackstone had been operating a large wheat ranch in New Mexico, but appears happy to change from that management to the more colorful show business. She has a daughter, Mrs. Dorothy Ross Owens, the wife of Judson E. Owens Jr., instructor in an army school at Fort Knox, Ky.

Both Mr. and Mrs. Blackstone are not particularly fond of our Michigan weather and plan to make California their permanent residence. Mr. Blackstone is negotiating for the sale of Blackstone Island here and hopes to close a deal before leaving.

A new item appearing in the Battle Creek paper states that Blackstone will go to Chicago next week to confer with members of the staff of Cornet Magazine regarding a television program to be sponsored by the publication on which Blackstone will appear.

Reminiscing a bit, Blackstone related how he became interested in magic.

“It was in 1904 at Chicago,” the magician said. “I dropped in at McVicker’s theatre and saw Kellar with his magic show. I attended the show every night for a week. Then my father asked where I had been all week, and I told him I had been going to see the Great Kellar. “Why didn’t you tell me?” by father asked, “and I would have gone with you.”

“Then I went to the Chicago library and got out its books on magic. I ran across a knot-tying trick with a handkerchief that interested me and I have since developed a few myself. Today that same Chicago library has several of my books on magic.”

Blackstone is of the opinion that the lure of magic will never lessen, and says, “More kids are interested in magic now than ever before, and more business and professional men are taking up magic as a hobby.

Harry Blackstone by

BLACKSTONE

A BIOGRAPHICAL SKETCH

By Daniel Waldron (Date unknown)


“Company of 30 – Mostly Girls!” ran Blackstone’s ads in the early 1940s. Magic and Mystery were fine, but the astute showman knew people bought theater tickets for numerous other reasons. Here are seven of them.

 

Blackstone the Magician was born Henry Boughton on September 27, 1885, in Chicago, Illinois, a son of Barbara and Alfred Boughton. He was known as “Harry” all his life.

His love of performing showed itself early when, as a child, he emulated traveling entertainers with backyard performances of his own. At age thirteen he saw a presentation by Kellar, the leading magician of the day, and his life’s ambition was set.

Shortly before young Harry’s fifteenth birthday his father died, leaving a family which now included seven boys. Harry found employment at a woodworking shop; where one of the orders he handled called for construction of some conjuring apparatus, he made a replica for himself, and thereafter practiced and performed in off-hours while still working at other jobs.

 

The Great Blackstone, as he looked at the time he was named “King of Magicians” while playing Detroit, 1934.

By 1905 he and his younger brother, Pete, were doing magic shows in and around Chicago. By 1910 they’d dropped the “gh” from their name and taken to the road with a vaudeville act known as “Harry Bouton and Company in ‘Straight and Crooked Magic’.” Harry did a trick straight; Pete followed with a comical burlesque. Through decades of trooping Pete was rarely absent from Harry’s side as fellow performer, backstage wonder-worker, master mechanic, trusted confidant, and bulwark of inestimable strength.

Harry’s consuming dream was to have a big illusion show and from 1913 onward he began to make it a reality. He took on a new name – Fredrik the Great – selecting it simply because it happened to be one printed on a quantity of magician’s unused advertising lithos which the hard pressed young performer could buy for next to nothing. Once the United States entered World War I, however, anti-German sentiment caused him to search for a less sensitive name and on January 7, 1918, at the Grand Theater in Tiffin, Ohio, he made his first appearance as “Blackstone, World’s Master Magician.

During the next decade he became one of the best-known magicians in America. The speed and flash of his performing style were just what The Roaring Twenties ordered and important bookings flowed in.

 

This publicity picture only hints at the sparkle these showgirls brought to the stage in the 1930s. Just above the magician’s head, in the right half of the photo, is his wife, Billie, the mother of Harry Blackstone, Jr.

His show had criss-crossed Michigan many times since the start of his career and in 1926 it was in Michigan, at the pleasant, secluded village of Colon, in St. Joseph County, where he purchased some 208 acres of woods, fields, and beachfront property on Sturgeon Lake. It would be his headquarters, workshop, and, as it turned out, the most “permanent” home of his peripatetic life. Here he and his company of performers could relax each summer, and form here every season for the next 24 years the Blackstone Magic Show set forth on its annual journey to entertain, baffle and delight U.S. and Canadian audiences from coast to coast.

 

In one of Blackstone’s feats, a boy from the audience is about to receive a rabbit. Before he can take it from the stage, however, it turns into a box of candy. Eventually it is restored to its former state and the boy takes it home with him.

In 1927 Harry invited to Colon a visitor who was to have a further impact upon the place in Michigan in the world of magic. Percy Abbott, an Australian wizard, came to fish, stayed to help form The Blackstone Magic Company, and when that dissolved, carried on by himself. Today Abbott’s Magic Manufacturing Company of Colon, Michigan, is the largest such enterprise – anywhere. Abbott died some years ago but the firm continues to supply tricks of the trade to conjurors throughout the world and yearly hosts the nation’s largest convention of prestidigitators.

 

His first summer in Colon, Michigan, (1926) Blackstone invited the whole town to an outdoor performance at his home. During the show he found a whole clothesline of baby garments in a young boy’s coat, much to the astonishment of the lad and the merriment of the crowd. No matter where or when, Harry was always ready with a trick. He was a magician 24 hours a day.

Harry met the Great Depression of the 1930s head-on, with a cut-down one-hour version of the big two-and-a-half-hour full evening show, playing three and four a day between films at movie theaters. The same June of 1934 in which he was named “King of Magicians” at a convention in Detroit saw the birth, in Three Rivers, Michigan, of son and heir, Harry Blackstone, Jr.

When World War II came along, the Blackstone Show was the first to entertain servicemen throughout the land for the newly organized USO Camp Shows. The long tour was a grueling one but after the war the Blackstone Show was more popular than ever. The glory years of the late 1940s saw the show at its height of success, but the bonanza was not to last. Television killed live show business, and in 1950 Blackstone’s big show, the “Show of 1001 Wonders,” the show which required a jam-packed double-length railroad baggage car to transport it around the country, make its last trip back to Michigan.

 

During World War II the Blackstone show left the civilian circuit and spent a year performing for GIs. It was a non-stop tour but Harry always found time between shows to entertain at beside in hospitals, like this one at Fort Custer. His expert skill and easy humor made even a card trick something special.

 

With characteristic optimism Harry mounted a smaller, lighter show with fewer people and toured again. But in April of 1955, plagued by poor health and dwindling box office receipts, he left the road for good.

He had performed continuously for half a century and magic was his life. Happily, his last years were spent serenely at The Magic Castle, a private club for magicians in Hollywood, California. Here, just a few blocks from his residence, he could come each evening to visit, greet throngs of friends and admirers, do tricks for hours on end, and enjoy the adulation due the Last of the Big Time Magicians.

 

Blackstone Island was home to the animals used in the magic show, as well as to human members of the company. At various times this included a horse, burro, ducks, geese, doves, canaries, and, not surprisingly, rabbits. Here, Harry feeds a small goat.

He died in Hollywood on November 16, 1965 at the age of eighty. A few days later his ashes were interned at Lakeside Cemetery, just across the water from his old home in Colon, Michigan.

When Harry Blackstone stepped onto the stage you knew you were in the presence of “A Magician.” Striding in, shoulders thrown back, arms thrust slightly outward from his sides, elbows bent, his sturdy hands poised as though ready to grapple with unseen forces, he seized the imagination instantly. And when he stood center stage, erect as a pillar, a sudden smile of pleasure passing over his face as the gloves which he briskly tossed into the air turned into a fluttering dove before your very eyes – at that moment there was no doubt in your mind that you would relax and be assured of enchantment. Nor was there any fear, as the sonorous, good-humored voice rose without electronic amplification to the last row of the uppermost balcony, that you would have to strain to help lift the dusty cars of life away. You could give yourself over to the astonishment, laughter, awe and delight which lay ahead as horses vanish, princesses floated, handkerchiefs disappeared from your own fingertips, and people, rabbits, flowers, ducks, burros, bottles, and silken shawls appeared from nowhere, behaved in incredible ways, underwent breathtaking transformations. Or vanished completely from human sight in the twinkling of an eye. You were in good hands. You would leave the theater refreshed, full of wonder, and wholly satisfied.

Theatrical performances surely are the most fleeting of the arts – and so it is with the Blackstone Magic Show. But fortunately, the person who se4emed little interested in the career of a performer when he was in the midst of it all as a lad, has as a man embraced with fervor and skill the life of a Magician. To get an inkling of what the old Blackstone show was like one need only see the new Blackstone show. It has its own distinctive differences and personality, as has the performer himself, but the showmanship, beauty, humor, and rich profusion of magical excitement which marked the work of Henry Boughton-Harry Bouton-Frdrik the Great-Blackstone. World’s Master Magician are uniquely there. Harry Blackstone, Jr. indisputably is his father’s son.”

*********************************************************************Daniel Waldron first saw Blackstone work his wonders on the stage of the Colonial Theater in Big Rapids, Michigan. He now lives in Detroit where he pursues a career as \writer and film producer.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Blackstone in Lansing

    In Lansing Theaters

 

 

From The Lansing State Journal, January 14, 1944: “BLACKSTONE OPENS RUN HERE SUNDAY;  An amazing journey into the land of adventure and fantasy is offered by Blackstone, the magician, who comes to the Michigan Theater Sunday for a week’s engagement.

Blackstone is called the greatest magician of all times, and with a company of 30 necromancers presents a unit show of thrills, surprises, and laughs.

A 70 foot baggage car is required to carry the stage property and effects used in the Blackstone act. Gorgeously dressed girls against background of silks and satins add to the beauty of the act, and each girl has a distinct duty in the presentation as a whole. A group of young men also assists in the succession of fanciful surprises, inspiring illusions, excitement and fun.

Like most people who are unusually successful in their profession, Blackstone has a winning personality. One critic, conceding his marvelous skill and quick fingers and palms, recently stated the magician’s personality gets more results than his surprising accomplishments.  His performances are conducted like a big party, and his audiences cheerfully help with many of the tricks.”

 

Recalling the Blackstones by Clarke Crandall

Recalling The Blackstones

 

From a January 1966 TOPS Magazine column by Clarke Crandall: “I don’t know who started the rumor that The Great Blackstone had died. I assure you it isn’t true. A nice man by the name of Harry Bouton passed away recently at the age of four score and a few days, after a full and rewarding life. The Great Blackstone isn’t dead. He will never die as long as a single magician lives. I actually didn’t actually know Harry Bouton but I met The Great Blackstone over twenty years ago at the Chicago Round Table. With his was a small boy, resplendent in Military School uniform. The small boy exuded good manners and poise in keeping with the uniform he wore. The boy isn’t small anymore but he still retains the good manners and poise and is a credit to the name Blackstone.

After the Great Blackstone had semi-retired and was making occasional appearances at magician’s Conventions I worked several times on the same bill with him. Once at a convention in Buffalo he was to close the banquet show. It was a huge room and the acoustics were atrocious. I sat in the back of the room with Jay Marshall and a few other cronies and watched most of the audience of magicians dribble out during Blackstone’s performance. It was a shameful and regrettable exhibition of bad manners. I said so to several in the lobby after the show. It didn’t endear me to them, I’m sure. I couldn’t care less. I still think it was one of the most impolite demonstrations I’ve ever seen. It may not have been the Great Blackstone on the stage that night. Perhaps it was Harry Bouton trying to impersonate Blackstone, who knows.

I recall a convention in Willkes-Barre. I was to M.C. a badly arranged show with too many acts booked. I knew it would run overtime considerable. I was trying to get the running time of each ask when the amateur convention chairman told me Harry had promised to do only fifteen minutes. I put him down for thirty. He did nearly forty. Backstage, during Blackstone’s act, the chairman said to me, “”Go out there and get him off.” I’ve done many foolish things in my life. Interrupting Blackstone in the middle of his act wasn’t going to be one of them. The audience was laughing; they were enjoying it. Harry was enjoying it and I certainly wasn’t going out and stop it. They were watching the Great Blackstone perform and so was I.

After the show the two-faced chairman, the man who told me to “get him off,” had cornered Harry and was telling how much he enjoyed his act. He asked Blackstone if he could have an autograph “for his grandson.” I’ll give you odds the grandson never got the autograph and the chairman still has it.

Later I was sitting with Blackstone in his hotel room. “I ran over a little, didn’t I, Senator?” he asked. “Why didn’t you come out and get me off?”  “Harry,” I told him. “I fell asleep during your act and didn’t notice the time.” He told me if he’d known I was asleep he’s have gone another thirty minutes. A few years ago in New York I was visiting a friend, Mack Beresford, at the Royalton Hotel. Harry also lived there at the time. Mack called him and asked him to come down. In a few minutes Harry came in, took out a Brain Wave deck and said, “Let me show you one of the greatest tricks I’ve ever seen.” He was entranced with the possibilities of the deck. “If I had known about this forty years ago I’d be famous today,” he told us. “How come you never became famous, Harry?” I asked him. He answered, “Maybe it’s because nobody ever heard of me.”

Three years ago at the Abbott Get-Together Blackstone closed out each of the three public shows. Well-meaning friends predicted he’d never make it. “He doesn’t have enough small stuff for three shows, “ they said. The first two nights he didn’t do too badly but seemed tired and somewhat apathetic. The third night he was the Great Blackstone and tore them up. He had the audience in the proverbial palm of his hand. The prolonged applause and the standing ovation must have thrilled him. I know it did because I was backstage when he came off and I saw the moist twinkle in his eye. The line outside the stage door waiting to congratulate him was four wide and a block long.

A few nights before Harry Jr. opened at the Conrad Hilton he came out to the tavern with Ricki Dunn to see me. Harry Senior had planned to come to Chicago and catch Junior’s opening. Harry Jr. called his father in California and was very disappointed. His father wasn’t feeling well enough to make the trip, Junior said. “My father told me to invite you and Dorny to be my guests on opening night and for me to listen if you guys offered any criticism as you both know the business.” I consider it the greatest compliment I’ve ever received. So, as far as I’m concerned, the Great Blackstone will never die. He’s just been booked on the longest run of his career and I won’t see him again but I’ll remember him like it was yesterday. I have no doubt he’ll kill them upstairs with the birdcage, the dancing hank and the buzz saw. Long live the Great Blackstone.

By the way, the piece on Harry by George Johnstone in last month’s TOPS was one of the finest tributes I’ve ever read. This compliment doesn’t mean I’ve mellowed. It just means I think it was a well-written gesture of esteem and a sincere appreciation of the man by one who knew him and loved him.

Johnstone tried to pull a fast one on me a few weeks ago. He came out to the joint with R. Dunn, the pocket picker, and two other nondescripts. One of the pair was a tall and sad-faced character with a fur cap. He looked like Stan Laurel after a hard night. George introduced me to the limpet-faced one as the entertainment chairman of a show George had just done. It didn’t ring true as I know the habits of entertainment chairmen. They don’t take magicians out after a show. They just promise the rest of the lodge members that, “next month we’ll have entertainment.”

They sat around awhile. I did a few routines and finally succeeded in breaking up the lugubrious one with an unprintable line that caused Ricki to fall off the barstool. This isn’t easy as Rick drinks nothing but Seven Up spiked with Squirt. As they started to leave, Johnstone said, “Senator, let me introduce Dick Drake.” What a laugh. Imagine the nerve of the guy, still trying to keep up the Dick Drake illusion. I know there is no Dick Drake, except in Johnstone’s unfertile imagination. Anyone who would try to palm off a mournful-looking, sad faced mandolin player as actually being the real Dick Drake would stoop to any subterfuge in order to lend credence to this charade. Johnstone said some pretty disparaging things about me in last month’s column and if they weren’t true I’d sue him and Neil Foster, the editor of this magazine, at the drop of Dick Drake’s hat.”

 

 

 

My Friend, Blackstone by Monk Watson

My Friend Blackstone

HODGE PODGE

Joe Ganger

 

From “Tops” Magazine, January 1966; By “Monk” Watson: “The end of an era came with the passing of my good friend, Harry Blackstone. I don’t believe that I’ll live to see the day when the big Magic Shows will tour the country and play the large theatres again. Not because the public would not welcome such shows, but because the demands from the Theatre Unions would be so great that it would made such shows too expensive to operate. Then, too, it takes much more than just a lot of good tricks and illusions and money to put on a big shoe. It takes a man who, when he steps out on the stage he is really a Magician, looking like, acting like and living like a Magician twenty-four hours out of the day. That was the kind of Magician Harry Blackstone was, for as many years as I can remember.

I attended the graveside service yesterday, Nov 20th, at the Lakeside Cemetery. Harry wanted to come back to Colon for his last resting place. The service was done by the Colon Masonic Lodge, which was Harry’s Lodge. If such a service can be called beautiful, this one was.

 

 

 

Monk Watson and Harry Blackstone Sr. at Harry’s home in Colon

Our friendship dated back to Nineteen Hundred and Thirteen when I first met Harry at the YMCA Carnival in Jackson, Michigan. I was playing clarinet in the YMCA band at the time and we played for each attraction on the midway. It was not a regular Carnival, but was set up like one with the acts booked in from some agent. The only part of the Carnival that was a Carnival was the rides. On one stage was a Magician, and I was interested in every move he made. I had been doing a small act in Magic for several years and any time I could watch a real Profession Magician that was my great a thrill. Such a thrill came when the Magician took the small stage and started catching doves out of the thin air, in a net. This fooled me, as well as everyone on the fair grounds. At the finish of his act I put down the clarinet and went back into the tent and watched the inside show. Then I remained after the show and introduced myself to the Magician. He was not Blackstone at that time, that is, in name, and I’m not sure just what name he did go under. He saw how interested I was in Magic so he took me back into his dressing room and visited for hours. The band was doing fine without the clarinet player, so I stayed on and on and on for many shows, in those days he would direct his attention and tricks to the kid in the front row. He told me how the Fire-eater did his act (in the next tent) and I couldn’t wait ‘til I got home to try it out, and darn near killed myself.

Years later, whenever I saw Blackstone, we’d talk about that first meeting. When I returned from France and World War One, we met at the Washington Hotel in Chicago, in the barbershop. I was broke and asked Harry for a job. There was a friend of his in the next chair and Harry introduced me. The man was Ala Axiom, the Crystal Gazer. Harry slipped me a ten spot and said, “Go with this man and you will have a good job.”

We opened in Toledo, and the first week with a salary of Fifty Dollars a week and Ten Cents for each book I sold. I came up with over Two Hundred Dollars. The books sold like crazy that week. I wrote to Harry at the Washington and thanked him for getting me the good start and I returned the Ten Spot. We ran into Harry several times on the tour and each time he and I would visit about my new job. When the Great Crystal Gazer got to believing in himself it was time for me to quit.

The Detroit Free Press was having a Christmas Party and had asked me to MC the show. I was thrilled when I found out the Harry was going to perform. We did several gags together and after the show went out for dinner.

Then it was Colon, where he made his home … the visits were more often and each time the friendship deeper. When his MC was drafted on the USO show, Harry asked me to jump on, from my Air Force duties. I did and it was a ball. Harry was a big-hearted man, and I’m not sure that anyone, down on his luck, who asked Harry for a little help didn’t get it.

This was the Blackstone I knew, the Greatest in my time, in my book.

How thrilled I was when I was the godfather of his son Harry Junior. Last night Harry Junior visited us, after the Service, and if there is a person who could follow the Great Blackstone, it would be Harry Junior. He has the greatness in his voice, his stage presence is as SURE as his father. I hope the day will come when I can see Harry Junior become the Great Blackstone, for the younger generation can watch and get the thrills I have had, remembering Blackstone.”

 

The Great Blackstone, George Johnstone

The Great Blackstone

 

From The “TOPS” Magazine, December 1965, by George Johnstone: “Harry Blackstone, age 80, occupation … legend.

The shadowy figure waiting in the wings with the scythe grew inpatient. Today the heart of the magic world mourns … Harry Blackstone, the Master Magician, is gone. A noble spirit has been put to rest.

The footlights have dimmed but they’ll never dim the glow of one of the brightest luminaries in show business.

Time usually diminishes a man’s status, robs him of the piece of fame that was his, and the regard in which he was held by his generation.

He becomes but a memory, mostly to himself, and that little, shrinking band of survivors who worked with and knew him well in the days of fame and high repute … Usually, a person in the twilight of his years is looked down upon as a useless, old-fashioned appendage whose values, skills and ideas belong to another age.

Not so with Harry Blackstone. The magic world knew and revered him as the last link to a time, which saw the big magic show hit a zenith of popularity. Here was a grand-scale magician, an extravagant and colorful worker of wonders, linked with Hermann the Great, Kellar, Houdini, Thurston, Dante and Okito.

We who worked with him, now realize that we were members of an era of show business that will never return to America … like the poor vaudevillians waiting for its return, we must face the fact that the big magic show, with dozens of assistants and tons of equipment has slipped into limbo forever … Like the showboat minstrel and medicine show. I thank God that He have me a short but sweet taste of this era.

In regard to the ancient slogan of the theatre to the effect that, “The Show Must Go On.” George Henry Lewes wrote, “The only cure for grief is action. It is better, I am sure, for the show to go on than for us to discover that grief has left us with stagnant spirits, unable to find the freshness of hope.”

Harry would want “the show to go on.” He has left us a wonderful heritage. He was a lobbyist for great magic. As I said when Okito left us … I am impoverished at having lost him but I can well feed on the heritage he has left … The seeds that Blackstone planted will still be seen and felt twenty generations of magic hence.

Christ Himself said, “Feed my lambs … Feed my sheep.” Harry Blackstone did just that.

Born Harry Boughton, he went thru a series of stage names, Bouton & Co., Frederick the Great, etc., eventually ending up with Blackstone, supposedly the family name of one of his grandparents.

John Mulholland has told me that he can recall six different names that Harry worked under. The name Frederick was adopted when he bought an immense array of litho ads and one-sheets from a retiring performer … this was dropped during World War I when Germanic names became unpopular.

One of his early acts, “Straight and Crooked Magic” with Bouton and Company … The “and Co.” was his brother Pete … I have an old 1911 newspaper clipping that reads: “Poorly clad, his breath smelling strongly of liquor and several days growth of wiry beard on his chin, a man approached Harry Bouton, who begins his engagement at the Caldwell Theatre Christmas afternoon, (also 5 big reels of deluxe pictures, admission 10 cents, reserved seats 10 cents extra), in a voice full of appeal. ‘Mister, can you give me a dime? I am broke and hungry.’ Mr. Bouton eyed the man and then said rather severely, ‘What do you mean begging money when you have money in your pockets?’ thereupon Mr. Bouton thrust an apparently empty hand into the pocket of the fellow’s coat and withdrew a dim. The tramp looked astonished as the coin was dropped into his hand. ‘A curse goes with that dime if you ever spend it on drink,’ said the magician as he turned away. A tug on his coat made him turn to the tramp. ‘Say,’ said the tramp, ‘Mister, won’t you please take pity on a fellow and take the curse from this coin?’”

During these salad days Harry still trouped quite a bit of props … props that would eventually grow to over 200 bulky, heavy pieces that had to be transported in a seventy foot baggage car … The “and Company” grew to over 30 people.

Years later another little boy would hang over the gallery railing enthralled by the wonders of a great magician. He would sit through two shows  … Between stage shows he would sit through a silly love picture, a newsreel of F. D. R. telling how good things would be soon. Surrounded in the darkness by hundreds of other kids squirming on the hard bentwood seats. The air was permeated with the dank odor of musty corduroy, sweaty sneakers, rancid oily popcorn and bubble gum. We slouched down in our seats as the usher patrolled the aisles looking for hangovers from the last show … Then as the screen was hoisted, the overture blared forth and the leonine-headed magician made his grand entrance, my brother would nudge me and say. “Cmon, you gotta take me now. I can’t hold it any longer.”

Later when you walked out, blinking at the city lights coming on, you carried an overflowing ambition in your heart … Someday the screen would go up, the overture would herald the magician’s entrance … and the magician would be … One wonders how many other youngsters were inspired by The Great Blackstone.

Living as we do in a strictly commercial world, what we leave in centuries to come can never compare with what the past has left for us.  Good bye, Harry, and thanks … George Johnstone

 

Harry Bouton Blackstone passed away November 16, 1965, at his home in Hollywood, California, at the age of 80.

Graveside services were held Saturday afternoon, November 20, in Lakeside Cemetery at Colon, Michigan. Donald Cozadd, paster of the Colon Methodist Church, officiated. Masonic rites were given my Colon Lodge No. 73, F & AM

Mr. Blackstone was born in Chicago on September 27, 1885, a son of Alfred and Barbara (Degan) Bouton.

Surviving are his wife, Elizabeth; one son, Harry, Jr.; two grandchildren, Cynthia and Harry, iii; one brother, Peter Bouton; and many nieces and nephews. Five brothers preceded him in death.

Harry Blackstone by George McAthy

A Salute To Harry Blackstone

 

 

From The “TOPS” Magazine, September 1965. By George McAthy: “On September 27 the “King of Magicians,” Harry Blackstone, will celebrate his 80th birthday. We of Southern California are lucky that Harry decided to spend his retiring years with us. We see him at magic meetings, local magic shows, in the magic shops and quite often in the Magic Castle. Harry can still do some amazing things with a deck of cards; he hasn’t lost his touch.

Sixty-four years of performing magic, in all parts of the world, is an enviable record. The man, who inspired Harry, when he was thirteen, was the Great Harry Kellar. Blackstone stepped up the pace of the full evening show of that day by fast action, lots of color and many beautiful girls. His show was a joy to behold. Many magicians received their inspiration to go out and do better shows after watching Blackstone perform. Also, many who worked in the show as assistants turned out to be credible magicians on their own. Yes, Harry Blackstone has done a lot for magic. I know that is a well-worn phrase but in this case it is a true one. His dynamic showmanship was unique.

In a way, it is sad to think that the Great Blackstone Show is stored away in mothballs. But as I write this I am looking at an article about Harry Blackstone, Jr., who is not appearing at one of the big clubs in Las Vegas. To quote,  “He is a very clever magician. He knows all of his father’s tricks.” So apparently the name of Blackstone will continue to appear before the public for many years to come. This fall Harry, Jr., will perform his illusions as a substantial part of a leading ice show which will tour the nation. I am told that this is the first time this has been done on a large scale. So Harry, Sr., may hold his head up with pride, knowing that the name he made so famous will continue on in show business, with top billing, as it should. A comforting thought when one reaches the majestic age of eighty, and the twilight of a great career. We salute you, Harry Blackstone!

Blackstone dies 1965

Blackstone, the Magician, Dies; Helped Make Colon ‘Magic City’

 

Newspaper clipping, 1965, from Colon Historical Society: “Harry Blackstone, world famed magician who helped make Colon a “magic capitol” and his home for 20 years, is dead at 80.

He died at 10:15 last night at his home in Hollywood, California, after suffering three months from pulmonary edema. With him were his wife, Elizabeth, and his manager, Charles McDonald.

Mr. Blackstone’s son, Harry Blackstone Jr., also a magician, was appearing in a performance in Florida.

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MR. BLACKSTONE, who closed his “big show” in 1956 after more than a half century as a magician, continued to give personal performances for several years. His last appearance in this area was in 1961, when he took part in the world convention of 500 magicians at Colon and was given a standing ovation by them. He had moved from Colon to California in 1945.

The next year Colon renamed its main street Blackstone Avenue in his honor, and the magician’s former home site on Sturgeon Lake near Colon at 15 Red Riding Hood Trail for years has borne the name, Blackstone Island. In Battle Creek, where the great Blackstone performed many times through the years, one of his local fans named his business place, Blackstone Tavern, for him.

Blackstone’s brother, Pete Bouton, who performed with his brother throughout his career, and his wife, Millie, who served as wardrobe mistress for the troupe, still live in Colon, on N. Blackstone Avenue.

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BLACKSTONE was the stage name for Harry Bouton, born in Chicago September 27, 1885, one of seven sons of Alfred and Barbara (Deagen) Bouton.

Blackstone’s father, of French Huegenot descent, changed the family name from Boughton to Bouton when he opened a florist shop in Chicago in 1881.

Blackstone was young when his father died and so he worked at various times as a milkman, carpenter, plumber and foundry worker before he and his brother, Pete, started their magic act in 1904.”

 

Blackstone visits Colon 1951

Blackstone Visits Many Colon Friends

 

From the Colon Express newspaper, August 16, 1951: “Harry Blackstone, the famous magician, with Mrs. Blackstone and Harry Blackstone Jr., spent Tuesday visiting Colon friends. The Blackstones, who now live in Hollywood, California had been taking a short vacation in Chicago and drove down for the day.

During the past year, since Blackstone moved from Colon, his show has been busily engaged in playing theatres in the western states and Canada. Late in July the show entertained at Scott Air Force Base, Illinois, where Bill Watson is stationed. Blackstone will be the featured attraction at the California State Fair in Pomona, which opens on September 14th. He then expects to travel east by way of New Orleans and may show in this territory sometime next winter.

It is interesting to note that the Blackstone show now travels by air in two C-54 planes, one of which carries the 7 tons of baggage, the company of 28 people traveling in the other.

Blackstone expressed pleasure on seeing the newly painted storefronts and other improvements in Colon. He and Mayor Watson spent some time together discussing civic affairs and Blackstone stated that of all the cities and towns he has visited, Colon continues to be the town he’d like to live in, if his business and health permitted.”

 

Blackstone’s Birthday 1941

Friends Surprise Blackstone on Birthday

 

 

From The Colon Express newspaper, October 2, 1941: “It requires unusual magic to deceive Blackstone, the famous magician, but he was caught unawares last Saturday evening when a group of friends from Colon and out-of-town prepared a surprise party in honor of his birthday. Although the party was held at his home on Blackstone Island, plans were secret and Blackstone was taken completely by surprise.

A birthday dinner was prepared under the direction of Eddie Wychoff, aide’-de-camp of the Blackstone show, and included a birthday cake decorated with images of Doc Bill, Blackstone’s vanishing horse; Jerry, the vanishing canary; and other of the magician’s renowned illusions. A shower of gifts was tendered Blackstone as he entered the room.

Colon residents who attended the party included Gen Grant, Howard Melson and Mr. and Mrs. Ken Murray. Out-of-town guests were Dr. and Mrs. M.F. Parrish, Mr. and Mrs. F. H. Murray and daughter Kathryn, of Sturgis; Mr. and Mrs. Ralph Doremus of Corning, N.Y., Capt. Robert Hertzberg of Washington, D. C.; and Mr. and Mrs. Lon Harris of Chicago.

Congratulatory telegrams were read from “Monk” Watson (“To the world’s greatest magician from the world’s worst”) who is performing in Texas and from Harry Blackstone, Jr., who is attending school in New York.”